Aaron Judge is showing he’s the center fielder the Yankees need – The Mercury News

When Aaron Boone first got the job managing the Yankees, Aaron Hicks let him know. The 6-foot-7 slugger thought of himself as a center fielder. Through the years, Judge kept dropping hints. He played 53 games at center for Fresno State, was drafted by the Yankees as a center fielder.

Now, given the chance, Judge isn’t talking about it, he’s showing everyone he can do it. Tuesday night, Judge made a tremendous play reading Shohei Ohtani’s long fly ball off the bat, running back to the left-center wall and making a leaping grab to pull back a home run.

It was a game-changer in the first inning.

“He’s had a couple against us when I was with Texas so you know that sound off the bat,” Yankees catcher Jose Trevino said of watching Judge track down the ball and snatch it. “But yeah, I thought it was out but thankfully you have someone that’s 6-foot-7 out there.”

It’s more than just his size.

Judge has shown he has a pretty good glove all those years in right field, but moving over to center has shown new range. He moves well and gets good reads off the ball.

And, well, the 30-year-old who carries the Yankees offense, leading the majors with 18 home runs, just likes playing there.

“The space and kind of control I feel like I can be a little more vocal, I can talk to the guys,” Judge said of playing centerfield. “I can move guys around a little bit more because I’m right there in the middle so I can see different things. What guys swings are, where the pitches are, because in right and left (field), you are kind of just reacting. You can’t really see it. ‘Hey, was that ball in and was that away?’ You know why they take a swing like that. So just being able to communicate a little bit more. Just kind of talk with Joey (Gallo) and Miguel (Andujar) or (Aaron Hicks), if he’s out there too. I just enjoy it. It’s part of the game out there.”

Tuesday night was the 17th time the Yankees started Judge in centerfield this season.He made 21 starts there last season. It began as a way to keep Giancarlo Stanton in the lineup when the Yankees were in National League parks and there was no designated hitter or when Boone wanted to use the DH for someone else. Right field, Judge’s professional home for so much of his career, is easier for Stanton to play.

Initially there were concerns about Judge playing there and maintaining his health. Centerfield is a big area to cover and Judge’s legs are a big part of his offensive game. The Yankees were not sure they wanted to risk that considering Judge had a history of injuries.

But Boone decided to try it last season.

“Yeah, I just got sick of them in my office. I said, ‘Fine. Let’s go,’” Boone joked of Judge bugging him about playing center. “Early on, not that I thought he was joking, but he’d always tell me, even probably my first year managing here, ‘I can play center if you need me to.’ I’d dismissed it but it started in my mind becoming like, ‘Well, maybe this is something we should do.’ He took to it right away last year. He is very, very natural out there. And yeah, I wish I would have had him play it earlier than last year.”

Jordan Montgomery, who gave up the long, high fly ball to Ohtani in the first inning is just glad that Judge was there Tuesday night. The lefty felt that Ohtani had hit it high enough that there was a chance Judge could get it.

“I definitely like Judge anywhere,” Montgomery said. “He’s an athlete. He’s gonna play really hard. I trust him anywhere. Put him behind the plate, I’d trust him.”

()

Related Articles

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Latest Articles